James Crow | wisconsinacademy.org
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James Crow


  • Fellow
  • 1984
Science, Genetics, Biology

University of Wisconsin-Madison professor James F. Crow died in January 2012.  Much of Professor Crow's research focused on theoretical population genetics, but he often ventured into the laboratory. Over a career that spanned more than 70 years, he and his collaborators studied a variety of traits in Drosophila, dissected the genetics of DDT resistance, measured the effects of minor mutations on the overall fitness of populations, described the behavior of mutations that do not play the selection game by Darwin's rules, and investigated many other subjects. His theoretical work has touched virtually every important subject in population genetics. Crow developed the concept of genetic load, contributed to the theory of random drift in small populations, studied of the effects of non-random mating and age-structured populations, and considered the question, "What good is sex?" In addition to his many research publications, Professor Crow published many reviews and appreciations of the work of his colleagues. Finally, his book on population genetics, written with Motoo Kimura, remains a major contribution to the literature of population genetics research and is still the classic in its field.

Professor Crow generously contributed his talents to so many good works in the university, the profession, and the community that one wonders how he managed to achieve so much as a geneticist. He chaired the UW Department of Medical Genetics for 5 years and the Laboratory of Genetics (that is, Genetics plus Medical Genetics) for a total of 8 years. He also served as acting dean of the UW Medical School for 2 years. He had served as president of the Genetics Society of America and the American Society of Human Genetics. At the national level, he served as a member of the General Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH and of the executive council of the National Committee on Radiation Protection; chaired the NIH Genetics Study Section and the NIH Mammalian Genetics Study Section; and chaired several committees for the National Academy of Sciences, including a committee to study forensic uses of DNA fingerprinting.

In addition, Professor Crow played viola for many years for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.  He also served as president of the Madison Civic Music Society and of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Professor Crow was truly a leader and statesman of science. His honors included membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the World Academy of Art and Science.

Professor Crow's obituary may be read on the website of the New York Times.

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